Although it is not the case now, black and white people had been in quite different communities from geographical and sociopolitical and financial points of view for a long time in the past. Their needs were different on account of their different geographical locations, ethnicities, sociopolitical backgrounds, and financial status. Necessity is the mother of invention, and both communities thought to ‘invent’ something as necessitated by their own specific circumstances and needs. Blacks, for example, were insecure. Therefore, they thought of inventing an effective security system. Whites were comparatively more susceptible to the dangerous effects of ultraviolet rays of sunshine, at times causing skin cancer; therefore, they thought of inventing processes like sunscreen, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. Marie Brown in the former and Marie Curie in the latter case may be recalled for quick reference.
1. Marie Van Brittan Brown/ Home security
Marie Van Brittan Brown, commonly known as Marie Brown, was born in Queens, New York, U.S. on February 2, 1922 and died in Queens, New York on February 2, 1999 at the age of 76. The 1920s were the years of the Harlem Renaissance and witness to the turbulence in black and white communities which resulted in creativity for black writers, artists, scientists, and inventors. On May 31, 1921 because of racial riots in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 60 black and 21 white people were killed. Under these circumstances the need for home security was being felt more than any previous years. In 1966 Marie Brown applied for an invention patent for a closed circuit home security system which was comprised of four sight holes and a sliding camera to capture views from different angles and send them to a monitor for display. She was granted the patent in 1969. Ever since its invention, the market of home security systems is continuously on the rise.
2. Dr. Mark Dean/Computer systems
Mark E. Dean was born in Jefferson City, Tennessee on March 2, 1957. He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, a master’s degree from Florida Atlantic University, and a Ph.D. from Stanford University. He is best known for the invention of the one gigahertz computer processor chip containing one million transistors and having an unsurpassed vast potential. He holds 200 patents for valuable inventions in the field of electrical engineering. Mark Dean is the first IBM Fellow, the highest achievable level of technical excellence in the company. He was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 1997.
3. Dr. Philip Emeagwali/ Extremely fast Computing
Philip Emeagwali was born in Akure, Nigeria on August 23, 1954. He is ranked the greatest African scientist of all time and the 35th greatest African of all time. He won the prestigious Gordon Bell Prize for inventing the machine to compute a world record 3.1 billion calculations per second using 65,536 processors to simulate oil reservoirs. On account of being extremely fast, accurate, and being capable of analyzing huge data analyses, his computers are being extensively used for weather forecasting and predicting the effects of global warming and the impacts of other serious environmental issues. As a result of his intellect and hard work, the child of a poor family raised himself to a position which brought him fame and wealth to the extent of his being known as the ‘Bill Gates of Africa.’
4. Dr. Charles Drew/ Blood Bank Inventor
Charles Drew was born in Washington, D.C., U.S. on June 3, 1904 and died in Burlington, North Carolina, U.S. on April 1, 1950 at the age of 45. He attended medical school at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. He earned his Doctor of Medical Science degree from Columbia University and was the first African American to achieve it. He is best known for his research on blood plasma that enabled his invention of blood banks which literally have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. He wrote his thesis entitled ‘Blood Bank’ and devised methods of separation, dehydration, and storage of blood plasma for later use. During World War II, he was asked to apply his knowledge, and soon he was at the helms of The American Red Cross Blood Bank affairs being recognized as an authority on the mass transfusion and processing of blood plasma. The Armed Forces during this period ordered the exclusive transfusion of Caucasian blood to soldiers whereupon Drew resigned under protest.
5. Frederick McKinley Jones/Refrigeration Systems
Frederick McKinley Jones was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on May 17, 1893. He was an African-American entrepreneur and one of the most prolific black inventors. He devised a system to synchronize sound and motion in motion pictures. He is best known for his invention of the roof-mounted refrigeration system for long-haul trucks in 1935. He was granted the patent on July 12, 1940. His invention revolutionized the storage and food safety on bulk scale food items during long-distance transportation. It was of special importance during the war period when nothing was more important than food and blood which could be safely stored and transported as a result of his great invention. He won the National Medal of Technology and was inducted into The National Inventors Hall of Fame.
6. Garrett Morgan/ Gas Masks
Garret Morgan, sometimes known as ‘Big Chief Mason,’ was born in Paris, a city and county seat of Bourbon County, Kentucky, on March 4, 1877 and died in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. on August 27, 1963 at the age of 86. He invented the traffic signal and a protective respiratory hood or gas mask. Garret’s invention emerged into prominence at the national level when 32 men trapped in an underground tunnel after an explosion about 250 feet below Lake Erie could be rescued through the use of the newly invented gas masks. These gas masks were further improved and later on used by the U.S.Army. Garrett Morgan was listed by Molefi Kete Asante among the 100 Greatest African-Americans. Morgan was a Prince Hall Freemason and an honorary member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
7. Elijah J. McCoy/ Lubricator for the Steam Engine
Elijah J. McCoy was born in Colchester, Ontario, Canada on March 27, 1844 and died in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. on October 10, 1929. He was a black Canadian American inventor best known for his inventions pertaining to the lubrication of locomotives, in particular for his invention of an automatic lubricator for oiling the steam engines of locomotives and ships. He was granted a patent for the ‘improvement in lubricators for steam engines U.S. Patent
#129,843. High-pressure steam is highly corrosive; therefore, most of the metals require constant oiling during running. McCoy’s oilers surpassed in accuracy with all the other attempted oilers. On this account the ‘Real McCoy’ became iconic for accuracy and efficiency. Detroit celebrated Elijah McCoy Day in 1975 and an historic marker was officially placed at the site of his residence. McCoy was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2001.
8. Jan Ernst Matzeliger
Jan Ernst Matzeliger was born in Paramaribo, Surinam, Dutch Guiana, South America in 1852 and died on August 24, 1887 at the young age of 37. In his time, shoe making was much a matter of personal skill requiring a lot of time and labor. A wooden or stone mold, known as a ‘last’ was first prepared to match the customer’s feet, and the shoe was made in two parts, the sole and the upper unit. Joining these two parts together was very time consuming. Jan Ernst Matzeliger invented a highly efficient lasting machine which increased the productivity by 900 per cent. It revolutionized the shoe industry. A commemorating stamp bearing his portrait was issued by the U.S. Postal Service.
9. Madame C. J. Walker/ Hair Care Herbals
Madame C. J. Walker was born in Delta, Louisiana, U.S. on December 23, 1867 and died in Irvington, New York on May 25, 1919 at the age of 51. She developed a herbal shampoo in pursuit of self hair care and found it effective. She marketed the product which was highly accepted. She was the first self-made millionaire black woman. In addition to being a successful business woman, she was a great philanthropist. Madame C. J. Walker was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame, The National Women’s Hall of Fame, and The National Cosmetology Hall of Fame.
10. Henry Blair/ Seed Planter
Henry Blair was born in Glen Ross, Maryland, U.S. in 1807 and died in 1860. He was the second black inventor to be granted a U.S. patent. On October 14, 1834 he was granted U.S. Patent #8447 xs for his invention of the seed planter which enabled the farmers to plant more corn in less time thereby increasing productivity. He was also granted another patent for a cotton planter. In the record of the Patent Office, he was identified as ‘colored man,’ and the suffix ‘x’ with the patent number was indicative of his being illiterate.
Neither certain ethnicity nor literacy or some extraordinary intellect is a prerequisite for invention. Quite a few blacks, looked down upon in the past as illiterates who were not privileged enough to have ever been to a primary school, like Henry Blair, have invented valuable devices which have served humanity without any discrimination of color or creed. All have benefited from their inventions. Any discrimination against them is ingratitude on the part of the generations who have enjoyed the fruits of their inventions.